The Lost Girls by Heather Young
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In 1935, on the last evening of summer vacation, six-year-old Emily disappears from her family's vacation lake home. Emily's doting mother is devastated, and she and her two daughters (Emily's older sisters) spend the rest of their lives at the lake house, waiting for Emily to return. Six decades later, only Lucy, the middle sister, is still alive. Afraid of dying without telling her story, she writes the tale down in a notebook and leaves it, along with the house, to her sister's granddaughter, Justine. When Justine receives the news that her great-aunt has left her a house in Minnesota, she's shocked. They've only met once, after all, and Justine's flighty mother is still living. But Justine realizes the house represents a way to flee the suffocating life she's living now, and to give her daughters a better life. So they pack up for Minnesota, only to find the house run down, the Minnesota winter cold and isolating, and their only neighbors two elderly men who live in the nearby lodge. Justine's older daughter, Melanie, becomes interested in Emily's disappearance; her mother, Maurie, returns, bringing her usual craziness; and ghosts from Justine's own past threaten their safety. Justine doesn't know what happened at the lake sixty years ago, nor does she know if it's safe for her family now...
This novel was a quick read, which pulled me into its tale immediately. The POV alternates between present-day (late 1990s) with Justine and then flips back to the 1930s, as Lucy tells her story via letter. In this way, we get snippets about the past in chunks, allowing for the story to unfurl slowly, building up suspense. Young does an excellent job in creating her characters: Lucy and her older sister Lilith practically jump off the page, as does little Emily. Lucy was the star of the show for me, both as her younger self and via her letter-writing. Her sadness is easily apparent as she tells a tale of a family trapped by their own secrets.
This is a somber book with serious themes; it's not always an easy read. Still, the back and forth POV works well in this case, and you'll quickly become enraptured in Lucy and Lilith's past, in particular. Justine and Maurie are more frustrating characters, but their story is still interesting, especially as you learn about Maurie's life growing up at the lake house with Lilith and Lucy. Overall, this was a different book (in a good way), with insightful and well-drawn characters, and an intriguing plot. Lucy sticks with you, even after it's over.
I received a copy of this novel from the publisher and Edelweiss (thank you!); it is available everywhere on 07/26/2016.
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